It still doesn't suck: BBEdit turns 30
April 13, 2022 12:13 PM   Subscribe

First announced on USENET in 1992, BBEdit has always offered powerful text-editing to Mac users. This week it turns thirty, and is still going strong!

Some of its features remain unmatched, like the great multi-file search. (Others I confess I still don't know what to do with.) Syntax high-lighting, autocomplete, and the first regular expression engine I can remember on Macs (except for maybe Torquemada the Inquisitor?), and multi-platform file encoding have been helping Mac programmers and web developers for decades.

The company has always had a cheerfully cheeky marketing presence: "BBEdit: it doesn't suck" has been the tagline all along. I still have a t-shirt and a temporary tattoo with the logo and motto that I got in....maybe 1994?

Three cheers as a dependable tool reaches middle age.
posted by wenestvedt (40 comments total) 34 users marked this as a favorite
30 years . . . my Mac IIcx system was already 3 years old then but still first-rank for prosumer use and would remain so until 1995, when the 2nd gen PowerMacs clearly obsoleted it on price/performance.

The 1990s were certainly a magical decade . . . Gore losing in 2000, 9/11, the two shitty wars, the Great Recession, Dems losing the House in 2010, Senate in 2014, and WH in 2016 . . . the shellacking coming this November . . . of the 5 decades I've gone through gotta say the 1990s were it, man. Not that the 70s or 80s were all that bad tho.
posted by Heywood Mogroot III at 12:27 PM on April 13, 2022 [5 favorites]

I haven't worked with Mac systems in over 10 years, but that name brings back fond memories.
posted by Greg_Ace at 12:40 PM on April 13, 2022 [3 favorites]

Aw, this is nice to see. Yay for old things that just keeping working basically okay.
posted by LobsterMitten at 12:48 PM on April 13, 2022 [7 favorites]

I’ve been a user since 1998 and it’s still my daily driver. I started out doing HTML/CSS back then, now mostly Python and related languages. BB has had a remarkable run and I continue to gladly pay for updates.
posted by migurski at 12:48 PM on April 13, 2022 [1 favorite]

Yeah, it's still my go-to. It doesn't suck.
posted by humbug at 1:11 PM on April 13, 2022 [2 favorites]

Respect! Never been my favorite but it's a solid choice and a survivor.
posted by snuffleupagus at 1:16 PM on April 13, 2022 [2 favorites]

My favourite thing about BBEdit is that the command to convert "quotes" into smart quotes is called “Educate Quotes”.
posted by oulipian at 1:43 PM on April 13, 2022 [19 favorites]

I use it all the time, and might not have learned regular expressions at all if not for it. I play with other text editors, but mostly work with BBEdit.
posted by adamrice at 2:24 PM on April 13, 2022 [2 favorites]

The truly astounding thing (well, a truly astounding thing; there are many) is that the free version of BBEdit offers almost all the features of the paid version. I've used the free version of BBEdit (and before that, TextWrangler) for many, many years, and I just paid for the non-free version a few months ago out of gratitude that, when I contacted tech support with a question, they put considerable effort into helping me, even though I was using the free version.

These are people I want to support.

BBEdit is just a fantastic thing. I am so glad it exists; I am so glad it's been (one assumes) profitable for them all these years; and I'm so glad it still doesn't suck - in fact, it delights.

Thanks for this post, wenestvedt - I always enjoy enthusing about the wonder that is BBEdit!
posted by kristi at 2:27 PM on April 13, 2022 [6 favorites]

I've paid for it too, for the same reason. Amazing... on the next 30 years!
posted by DreamerFi at 3:23 PM on April 13, 2022 [1 favorite]

I was using BBEdit for a while before putting my first website live, Feb. 1, 1995 ( Built it entirely in BBEdit. They were running a promotion: send them the URL of a site thus built and get a "BBEdit It Doesn't Suck" tee shirt. Did that. Wore it proudly until it fell into tatters in the late 1990s.
posted by theoriginalkdawson at 3:26 PM on April 13, 2022 [2 favorites]

I used to use BBEdit every day at work in one of my first real jobs. My friend group from that place refers to their "It doesn't suck" tagline on a regular basis.

I still miss that job.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 3:44 PM on April 13, 2022 [1 favorite]

Been rolling with BBEdit since the 90s. Top-shelf editor!

(RIP TextWrangler - but BBEdit has the better icon.)
posted by porn in the woods at 4:28 PM on April 13, 2022 [5 favorites]

They are great folks. I did some freelance writing for them back when BBEddit was a lot younger; you should still be able to find my name in the About box. Helped man their booth at Macworld a few times, too. Good times.
posted by kindall at 4:35 PM on April 13, 2022 [3 favorites]

Oh, BBEdit. At this point I haven't bought an Apple product in over a decade, but I still have a lot of fond memories of what Mac culture looked like in the mid-late '90s, and BBEdit is right there - MacAddict magazines on my desk, BBEdit on one CRT, and a game of Escape Velocity on another. I'm glad for Apple's success, but I miss the scrappy-underdog years and the sense of community it created. MacAddict is now called MacLife (vomit), and Escape Velocity is abandonware from a defunct publisher, but I'm happy to see that at least one element of those years is still kickin'.
posted by ZaphodB at 4:57 PM on April 13, 2022 [4 favorites]

kindall: should still be able to find my name in the About box.

Hey, me, too -- as an "unindicted co-conspirator"!
posted by wenestvedt at 5:27 PM on April 13, 2022 [3 favorites]

wenestvedt - but are you one of the first four unindicted co-conspirators, or the fifth? (I did NOT know about that until I went looking for the list of unindicted co-conspirators. Happy sigh. These guys are the best!)
posted by kristi at 5:38 PM on April 13, 2022 [3 favorites]

Tools I’ve owned for more than 30 years now, a short list: hammer, screwdriver, BBEdit.
posted by quartzcity at 5:48 PM on April 13, 2022 [6 favorites]

My work computer is a Windows machine. I use Notepad++. It’s ok. But every time I use it, I’m glancing at my personal Mac, sitting right there next to me, and wish I was using BBEdit instead…
posted by caution live frogs at 6:27 PM on April 13, 2022 [1 favorite]

Glad to see BBEdit getting some love.

I started using the free version (BBEdit Lite, which later became Text Wrangler) back in the 90's in grad school, writing my dissertation on my Quadra 650 in some crappy little apartment I shared with my lovely newlywed bride. I had BBEdit Lite on one side of my screen, and some early LaTeX compiler on the other, and I thought it was just about perfect. And now? I'm using the paid version of BBEdit, but everything else is the same. My work flow hasn't changed in almost 30 years because it hasn't needed to; BBEdit still works like a charm. And my then-newlywed bride and I are coming up on 30 years as well. I think pearls and lilies are the anniversary gifts, so I guess I better start saving.

Just for laughs, I found my old .tex files from the 90's written in that ancient version of BBEdit Lite. They opened up perfectly in my new BBEdit 14.1, with no warnings about incompatibilities and no offers to update. The text files still work just fine. I can't think of any other software that has three decades of backwards compatibility.
posted by math at 6:53 PM on April 13, 2022 [5 favorites]

I haven't done development with it but it's been my go to "I just need to paste plain text and maybe code snippets and maybe run regex search and replace on them" for many, many years (though I first encountered it as TextWrangler). It's one of the first things I download when I'm on a new computer. I've tried various markdown and rich text-esque note taking apps and they're just too fiddly and concerned about formatting. BBEdit generally does its job without getting in the way
posted by treepour at 8:23 PM on April 13, 2022 [2 favorites]

I started refusing to pay for software in the 90s (mostly because I couldn't afford it) and jEdit eventually took over as my daily driver. But I remember trying to wring as much out of BBEdit's free trials as I could and being disappointed with TextWrangler because it just wasn't BBEdit. That regex editor! MWAH!

Just last week I finally switched back from VSCodium to VSCode so I could sync my settings and update extensions without having to install from VSIX files or do any weird configuration.

Right now I'm going over to Barebones and downloading BBEdit for old time's sake. (I remembered that the company is Barebones without having to google it.)
posted by bendy at 9:45 PM on April 13, 2022 [1 favorite]

Three cheers as a dependable tool reaches middle age.

Title of my sex tape.
posted by kirkaracha at 10:08 PM on April 13, 2022 [7 favorites]

Such good memories of that application. Back in the late 90s I was working as the web developer for an Australian software company that made, of all things, HTML editing software. I doubt my bosses ever knew it, but our entire web presence was written exclusively using BBEdit. I have fond memories of the multi-file regex tool - affectionately dubbed the 'swiss army chainsaw' - and of the clean, simple user interface.

I remember the 'it doesn't suck' tag-line, but I recall also 'BBEdit: Saving your ass, one day at a time'. And yes, dear reader, they sent me the t-shirt.
posted by tim_in_oz at 10:23 PM on April 13, 2022 [3 favorites]

Whoah, I had no idea TextWrangler fka BBEdit was now BBEdit again. I still use TW and I used BBE before it.
posted by pelvicsorcery at 12:21 AM on April 14, 2022 [2 favorites]

another daily user of BBEdit, and can confirm it doesn't suck. I have to constantly deal with little snippets of structured text- json, XML, tsv, whatever- and it just works. The miracles that one can work with a few seconds of prefix/suffix and other bits and pieces are the kind of thing that just can't be done with other tools.
posted by rockindata at 4:48 AM on April 14, 2022 [1 favorite]

Escape Velocity is abandonware from a defunct publisher

If you're feeling nostalgic, Endless Sky is free, and also available on Windows and some Linux environments.
posted by quizzical at 5:09 AM on April 14, 2022 [2 favorites]

One of my favorite features is being able to work out a gnarly fin-and-replace pattern -- and then save it with a custom name!

There's a tool for generating static HTML catalog pages from the Calibre e-book library software (using Java), and it botched a single HTML tag for years. But every time I updated my catalog, I could use BBEdit's multi-file find-and-replace with my saved pattern and zap them away!

It also was handy cleaning up a decade's worth of email messages from a shuttered mailing list's salvaged archive.
posted by wenestvedt at 5:50 AM on April 14, 2022 [3 favorites]


Handy for fish!
posted by Greg_Ace at 8:40 AM on April 14, 2022 [3 favorites]

posted by wenestvedt at 10:03 AM on April 14, 2022 [2 favorites]

Escape Velocity is abandonware from a defunct publisher

There's an Avara port on github.
posted by snuffleupagus at 10:47 AM on April 14, 2022

30 years? Jeebus.

I really should pay for the damn thing...
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 9:16 PM on April 14, 2022 [5 favorites]

The BBEdit site notes that it fully supports new M1 Apple silicon Macs. I guess it's been through all of the Mac processor transitions: 68k to PPC to x86 to ARM!
posted by dgr8bob at 9:59 AM on April 15, 2022 [2 favorites]

a dependable tool reaches middle age

My next MeFi username!
posted by bendy at 6:16 PM on April 15, 2022 [4 favorites]

are you aging in reverse?
posted by snuffleupagus at 6:21 PM on April 15, 2022 [2 favorites]

Used to use it a lot back in the v3/4/5 days. Even paid for a copy. Used to spend a lot of time composing emails offline in BBEdit and pasting it into a zterm BBS elm/pine session.

Also Mailsmith back when there was much wailing & gnashing of teeth as Eudora started to suck and I was looking for alternatives. Definitely halcyon days for Mac software - while there wasn't the variety of software that the DOS/Windows world had, there was usually one tool which was genuinely world-class in its field (apart from games which were often ported but performed sub-optimally).
posted by phigmov at 10:23 PM on April 15, 2022 [3 favorites]

i started using BBEdit in the mid-90s on System 7.5. for a while in modern times i switched to TextMate 1/2, but eventually the jank got to be too much for me and i went back to BBEdit. it was like coming home.

aside from Finder, there are only six applications pinned in my Dock. BBEdit is one.
posted by secret about box at 2:13 AM on April 16, 2022 [1 favorite]

are you aging in reverse?

I'm certainly not as bendy as I was 21 years ago when I joined.
posted by bendy at 7:39 PM on April 20, 2022 [2 favorites]

I have been leaching off of the free version of BBedit since forever. I used Textwrangler for a while, which I think still counts. My favorite features are:
  1. "modify lines containing" which allows me to copy our cut every line in a file that contains "rutabaga" or whatever
  2. I'll paste in text from something terrible, like a PDF, and then search for all of the \r and replace with a " " so the text wraps nicely. I need to automate that function.
  3. I've actually printed out the chapter on regular expressions multiple times but still haven't learned them
posted by mecran01 at 7:54 AM on April 22, 2022

Regular expressions are a lot to take in. You don't need to swallow them in one bite. I'm far from an expert, but even within my limited abilities, they're very powerful. It helps to have a real problem they could solve, like rearranging a TSV file.
posted by adamrice at 9:53 AM on April 22, 2022

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